Men's Basketball: Ford, Olson propel Panthers past Piedmont 105-84

Men's Basketball: Ford, Olson propel Panthers past Piedmont 105-84

Senior Braxton Ford and junior Justyn Olson combined for 49 points to help propel LaGrange past Piedmont 105-84 in Mariotti Gym on Wednesday. 

The win was the third straight for the Panthers (13-3, 4-1 USA South), who moved into a tie for first with Covenant in the league standings. The Panthers play at Greensboro, who is one of four teams one game back of the co-leaders, on Saturday.

"I couldn't be prouder of the way we came out and competed from the tip tonight," said Coach Kendal Wallace. "We have been playing well recently but haven't really had great starts, so we stressed how important coming out with intensity was going to be tonight.

"Piedmont is a really good team and we need to play a complete 40 minutes to beat them and that's what I feel like we did."

Ford poured in a career-high 26 points to lead all scorers. He hit six of the Panthers' nine 3-pointers in the game. Olson finished with 23, making 10-of-14 shots from the floor.

The Panthers finished with five players in double figures. Mark Wagner had 14 points, while Drew Vanderbrook had 12 and Alex Bonner added 10 off the bench. Wagner also had a career-high nine assists and tied a career best with six steals in the game. 

"Our upperclassmen made sure they set the tone tonight and everyone else followed suit," Wallace said. "And a big thanks to the crowd as well, that made for a great environment we had in Mariotti tonight!"

The Panthers never trailed in the game. Feeding off the large and very loud crowd, they jumped out to a 20-7 lead as Ford drained three treys to lead the charge.

Piedmont (8-7, 2-4 USA South) chipped away at the Panthers' lead. The Lions pulled within four, 40-36, with three minutes left in the half.

The Panthers closed out the half on an 11-2 run to lead 51-38 at the break. Olson scored off two straight steals by Wagner to power the run. Ford had 15 of his points in the half, while Olson had 11.

In the second half, the Lions got within three, 65-62, with 12:35 remaining. Olson's 3-pointer pushed the Panthers lead to 14, 84-70, with less than 10 minutes left. 

The Panthers put the game out of reach with a 22-7 run over a four-minute span. Olson scored the final nine points, as the Panthers had their biggest lead, 100-75, with 2.58 left.

The 105 points was a season high for the Panthers, who went over the century mark for the fourth time this season. They also forced 21 Lion turnovers, while committing a season low seven turnovers.